On January 7, 2021, several employees of the Missouri State University Libraries attended a training session on chat and online reference services hosted by Amigos Library Services. This training was provided to staff and faculty members with a wide range of online reference experience from those with no experience to faculty with years of chat and reference experience.
Jodie Borgerding, an MSU alumna, provided the training from Amigos with an agenda consisting of: an introduction to chat and online reference services, personal attributes for great customer service, how to conduct a chat and online reference interview, best practices, chat etiquette, and privacy considerations. Jodie placed an emphasis on customer service and approachability in an online environment. For those not familiar with reference work and a refresher to others, she covered the basics of conducting the reference interview (including listening, showing interest, and asking open ended questions), developing a search strategy, and the importance of using online reference platforms as an instruction opportunity. Jodie made the point that teaching patrons how to conduct research on their own is a meaningful endeavor and adds value to the interaction especially within the academic environment.
She also reinforced the idea of closure and conduct when concluding the reference interview. You want to keep that same level of good customer service energy throughout the reference interview including through the conclusion. Jodie reminded the group that it is often easier for follow-up assistance in some online environments than others (email vs chat) so to use your time with patrons wisely. Before concluding your transaction with the patron, you want them to feel that they can return to your services if they need to and also want them to be aware of other reference services that could help them.
Professor Tracy Stout, Head of Research and Instructional Services at the MSU Libraries, followed Jodie’s training with a brief introduction and demonstration to the current MSU Libraries’ chat platform (Springshare’s LibAnswers and LibChat). The training was recorded and is available along with slides of the presentation and further readings on the Amigos course portal for trainees for three months.